I don't believe for one minute that it was only in the EVE developer's roundtable that anyone in the industry ever said:
"Hey, you know what, everyone pays for 24/7 game access; why not let them develop some aspects of their charcter or game offline so that everyone feels like they're getting their money's worth, even when they can't actually be online?"
"Look, guys, don't you think it's kind of unhealthy to set up our game so that only those with addiction-level playing styles can accomplish the best content? Why not let them advance at a certain pace even offline and thus encourage everyone to have lives outside of the game?"
"Hey, instead of making potential new customers choose between WoW and our game, let's make it so they can play both by allowing offline progression in ours! That way they can at least fully test out our game and not have to give up their WoW addiction."
Okay, Alganon did think of that last one. But, really? Nobody else thought of these things? Or, if they did, they were shot down? A game that offers offline progression is a no-brainer for anyone that wants to appeal to casual players and part-timers and at least get those who are playing another game to try out your new game. So why hasn't anyone outside of EVE and Alganon even tried it?
My theory on this is pretty simple; MMOGs are made by people that are dedicated to playing MMOGs or other video games. Most of them got ongoing doses of enjoyable self-esteem (no knock intended) and joy and love and community by spending 40+ hours a week in-game, being part of some big, organized guild and pwning the high-level content.
They have absolutely no comprehension of why people unlike them play the game, because they are deep in a community of people that play these games as if these games are a drug or a job. They try to imagine why people play WoW or EQ2 when they're only in the game maybe 5-10 hrs a week; and this inability to understand shows in how they throw "bones" to what may actually be their largest and most profitable player base. They apparently believe we should be happy with the powergamer game scraps. In their mind, we obviously aren't in the game to "achieve" or advance our character, because if we were we'd be playing like them, so we must be there for social reasons, or other non-developmental, non-advancement reasons.
In the words of one developer from long ago, the great unwashed and lame (we casuals) are needed only so that the powergamers will have the sense that they are better; they need a large context of under-achievers so that their over-achieving playstyle provides a satisfactory sense of comparative superiority.
Well, listen up. The only thing that separates you from the great masses of casual players is that playing the MMOG is not as important to them as it is to you. They still want the same advancement, achievement, and character development as you, the same opportunity to grow and develop their character to pwnage power or visual equipment and abilities; they are just unwilling to reorganize their lives to invest the necessary at-the-keyboard time to accomplish this.
Oh, many of them are willing to pay for it by purchasing ready-made characters sold at third-party sites, or buy from in-game shops, or even pay outside organizations to level and raid with their character to get the advancement goods. They're willing to risk being banished by running scripts so that they don't actually have to be at the keyboard to grind.
Yes, that's right: they want to be able to gain all the power and abilities and gear as those who actually work for them (and by "work" I mean be at the keyboard as if it is your career) without actually having to invest the online time to do so. Most "hard-core" players sneer at this in most forums, throwing out insults dripping with dismissive condescension. I would imagine that most developers, even if they had the idea of offline progression, would quiver in fear of the wrath of the hardcore base if they installed true offline progression. They would be known as the developer that put out a game for gimps and whimps that wanted all of their achievements handed to them on a silver platter without having to work for it.
Well, here's the thing, guys. I (and many, many others) have a full time career and a full time family and full time real-life activities; I am not about to invest the necessary hours in at-the-keyboard work (read: grind, raids, hours-long-group-intances) in order to achieve or develop my character with gear and abilities in your game, and since your game is built around at-the-keyboard time as a criteria for advancement, why should I play your game?
Answer: I don't. I used to, because of many reasons - it was a cool experience in EQ, and WoW was a beautiful game, but in the end those things are ultimately unsatisfying because I had no chance whatsoever of going beyond a certain point with my character because of the online time required. At some point the casual player or soloer understands this is true, and will be true, about any MMOG they play because they're all the same in that respect. For many of us we realize we're ultimately just playing a game that will frustrate us when we run into that first bottleneck. We'll start losing interest and then just leave the game. Some of us will even get resentful as we realize that we are being farmed for subsidy money so that high-end content can be supplied to the least profitable members of the community (because of the bandwidth they consume).
At some point, however, some developer is going to actually ask a focus group of part-time casuals and soloers what they really want (not what they can reasonably expect) from an MMOG, and they're going to fearlessly tell the developers that what they really want is to be able to get everything that the powergamers get, only they don't want to have to sacrifice time from their offline lives to get it. Perhaps some smart developer will transcend the shock, horror and disgust of such a notion and realize that it's about the money, and develop a game to tap this market even if it means being ridiculed by all the power gamers in the world. You know, develop a game entirely around the casual and soloer market from the ground up.
And then we'll finally have a fearless, no-apology offline advancement system MMOG instead of one more power-gamer haven deceptively advertised as casual-player friendly by people who imagine that they understand what casual players really want. We want to be more than just that which power gamers compare themselves to in order to feel superior.